My Playlist: George Harrison

Today, George Harrison would have turned 75 years, so this felt like a great occasion to put together a commemorative piece and playlist. Harrison was born on February 25, 1943 in Liverpool, England. His father Harold Hargreaves Harrison was a bus conductor, while his mother Louise  (née French) was working as a shop assistant. He had three older siblings, two brothers (Harold and Peter) and one sister (Louise).

While growing up in Liverpool, Harrison developed an early interest in music and guitars. His father had reservations about his son’s plans to pursue a music career but still bought him an acoustic guitar in 1956. One of his dad’s friends taught Harrison a few songs. Not surprisingly soon thereafter, Harrison formed his first band with his brother Peter and a friend – a skiffle group inspired by Lonnie Donegan. In 1957 on the bus to his high school, Harrison had a chance encounter that started a life-changing path: Running into Paul McCartney. With their shared passion for music, the two hit if off pretty quickly.

McCartney, who had started playing with another young fellow called John Lennon in The Quarrymen, brought Harrison into the skiffle band in early 1958. By August 1960, the band had adopted rock & roll and following a few name changes evolved into The Beatles. Apart from Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, the initial lineup included Stuart Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drums). In August 1962, Ringo Starr joined on drums, after George Martin had complained to Brian Epstein about Best’s poor skills. Sutcliffe had left The Beatles a year earlier, which had prompted McCartney to switch from guitar to the bass. The classic line-up was finally in place!

The Beatles

In the early years, Lennon and McCartney dominated the band’s songwriting. While Harrison got his first credit for Don’t Bother Me on the second studio album With The Beatles from 1963, it wasn’t until Help! (1965) that he started asserting himself more as a writer. Help! featured his two compositions I Need You and You Like Me Too Much. Eventually, he introduced Indian influences and other ideas. The Beatles’ music wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, had it not been for Harrison.

Some of Harrison’s other song contributions during The Beatles period included If Needed Someone (Rubber Soul, 1965), Taxman (Revolver, 1966), Within You Without You (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Blue Jay Way (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967), The Inner Light (non-album single, 1968), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles, aka The White Album, 1968), It’s All Too Much (Yellow Submarine), Here Comes The Sun (Abbey Road) and I Me Mine (Let It Be).

Before The Beatles broke up in early 1970, Harrison had already released two solo records, Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound, both of which were mostly instrumental. In November 1970, his first post-Beatles solo record appeared, the triple LP All Things Must Pass – a powerful statement that Harrison was finally free from all artistic restrictions!

Concert For Bangladesh

In 1971, responding to a request from his mentor Ravi Shankar, Harrison organized the Concert For Bangladesh to raise money for starving refugees in the war-ravaged country. In addition to him and Shankar, the charity event in New York’s Madison Square Garden on August 1st featured an impressive array of other artists, such as Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Billy Preston and Bob Dylan. It attracted more than 40,000 visitors and raised close to $250,000 (about $1.55 million in today’s money), and essentially introduced the concept for Live Aid and other music charity events.

Between 1973 and 1987, Harrison released eight additional solo albums: Living In The Material World (1973), Dark Horse (1974), Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975), Thirty Three & 1/3 (1976), George Harrison (1979), Somewhere In England (1981), Gone Troppo (1982) and Cloud Nine (1987). He could not complete his final album Brainwashed due to advanced cancer but left it with a guide for his son Dhani Harrison and his friend and music collaborator Jeff Lynne to complete. The record appeared in November 2002, one year after Harrison’s death.

The Traveling Wilburys

In 1988, Harrison co-founded The Traveling Wilburys, which also included Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. The band released two albums, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988) and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (1990). The latter record did not include Orbison who had passed away in December 1988. Harrison’s discography also includes two live records, four compilation albums and four box sets. Time for some music clips!

Wah-Wah appears on All Things Must Pass, which is widely considered to be Harrison’s best solo album. It also became his most successful solo release, topping the charts in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and various other countries.

Here Comes The Sun is one of Harrison’s compositions from The Beatles period and one of my favorite tunes from the Abbey Road album. The following clip captures his live performance during the Concert For Bangladesh, together with Badfinger lead vocalist and guitarist Peter Ham.

The Lord Loves The One (That Loves The Lord) is from Harrison’s forth studio album Living In The Material World, which appeared in May 1973.

Dark Horse is the title track of Harrison’s fifth studio record from December 1974.

Crackerbox Palace appears on Thirty Three & 1/3, Harrison’s seventh studio album from November 1976. The tune, which features a slide guitar sound that had become a Harrison signature, was also released as the record’s second single in January 1977.

Blow Away is included on Harrison’s eponymous 8th studio album, which came out in February 1979. The song also appeared separately as the record’s lead single a few days ahead of its release.

Got My Mind Set On You, composed by American songwriter Rudy Clark, is from Cloud Nine. Released in November 1987 after a five-year hiatus from the music business, Harrison’s 11th studio album became a successful comeback, reaching no. 8 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and climbing to no. 10 on the UK Albums Chart. Got My Mind Set On You was also the record’s lead single and reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

Handle With Care is the opening track from Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. The tune, which like all songs on the 1988 album is simply credited to Traveling Wilburys, features Harrison and Orbison on lead vocals. Here is the official video clip.

If I Needed Someone is one of my favorite Harrison compositions and Beatles tunes. It appears on the band’s sixth studio Rubber Soul, released in December 1965. The following clip is from Harrison’s 1992 Live In Japan album, which features Clapton and a terrific backing band.

I’d like to conclude this post and playlist with Any Road from Brainwashed, released in November 2002. Harrison’s final solo album took about 14 years to complete. After he had started work in 1988, things got delayed due to business problems with his former manager Denis O’Brien, his work with the Traveling Wilburys and Ravi Shankar, and his involvement in The Beatles Anthology albums. In 2001, Harrison underwent surgery for lung cancer and radiotherapy for cancer that had metastasized into his brain. He continued to work on the album as long as he could and left instructions for Dhani and Lynne to complete things. Harrison passed away at a friend’s house in Los Angeles on November 29, 2001. He was 58 years old.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

In Memoriam of Tom Petty

Music has lost another great artist way too early

I still cannot believe that Tom Petty, one of my long-time favorite music artists, is gone. At 66 years, he was even younger than Walter Becker and Gregg Allman, two other giants who recently passed away at 67 and 69 years, respectively. Sure, let’s be honest here – all of these guys did drugs at some time in their lives, but as far as I know, they all had become sober long before they died. I also believe it is not known whether drugs may have had any role in Petty’s cardiac arrest, which preceded his untimely death.

Sadly, Petty’s death also illustrates the frenzy of today’s media world. TMZ broke the news Monday afternoon that Petty was taken to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital on Sunday night after he had been found unconscious and in full cardiac arrest at his Malibu, Calif. home. CBS News prematurely reported his death Monday evening, hours before he actually passed, apparently based on wrong information from the Los Angeles Police Department. E! News, Rolling Stone and other media outlets promptly picked up the story. This triggered immediate condolences from Bob Dylan and others from the entertainment world. It also reportedly prompted a blistering Instagram post from AnnaKim Violet Petty, one of Petty’s surviving three children. Very sad.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Thomas Earl Petty was born on October 20, 1950 in Gainesville, Fla. He had a difficult childhood with an apparently abusive father. School wasn’t his thing, but he discovered his love for music early on and got his first guitar at the age of 12. One of his first guitar teachers was then-fellow Gainesville resident Don Felder, who later became a member of the Eagles. In the mid-’60s, Petty joined his first band, the Sundowners, playing local shows in the Gainesville area.

In 1970, Petty co-founded Mudcrutch together with guitarist and vocalist Tom Leaden. Among the other members of the line-up were Mike Campbell (guitar) and starting from 1972 Benmont Tench (keyboards), who together with Campbell later became part of Petty’s longtime band The Heartbreakers. Originally, The Heartbreakers, which Petty formed in 1976, also included Ron Blair (bass) and Stan Lynch (drums). Petty who had played bass and was the backing vocalist in Mudcrutch switched to guitar and lead vocals.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers released their eponymous debut album in November 1976. At first, the record received little attention in the U.S. That changed when it entered the U.K. charts in the wake of a British tour. Breakdown became a top 40 single in the U.S. The album also included American Girl, one of my favorite early Petty tunes that became a staple on rock radio. Here’s a cool clip from the Heartbreakers’ 2002 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction performance. I love Petty’s Rickenbacker guitar!

The band’s third record Damn the Torpedoes, which appeared in October 1979, brought significant commercial success in the U.S., reaching Triple Platinum certification and peaking at no. 2 on the Billboard albums chart. Among others, it included the Petty tune Don’t Do Me Like That, as well as Refugee and Here Comes My Girl, both co-written by Petty and Campbell. All three tracks were also released separately as singles and charted in the Billboard Hot 100. Here’s a nice clip of Refuge from Farm Aid 1985.

In November 1982, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers released their fifth album Long After Dark. It featured another Petty-Campbell co-write that is one of my favorites: You Got Lucky. The song also became the album’s lead single and climbed to no. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here is a clip recorded in Newark, N.J. in June this year during the band’s 40th anniversary tour, which only concluded last week in Los Angeles. I saw the band twice, once in the late ’80s in Germany, and a second time in September 2014 at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J. I had thought about catching them a third time during the 40th anniversary tour – now I wish I would have done it!

Another highlight in the Heartbreakers’ discography is Southern Accents, the follow-on to Long After Dark, which appeared in March 1985. The album generated three singles: Don’t Come Around Here No More, Rebels and Make It Better (Forget About Me). The first was co-written by Petty and the Eurhythmics’ Dave Stewart, while the last two were penned by Petty only. Rebels is my favorite of the three tunes. Here’s a clip of the studio version.

In 1988, Petty joined George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan in The Traveling Wilburys, a true “supergroup” that was initiated by Harrison. They released their debut album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 in October 1988. In December that year, Orbison passed away. The remaining four members recorded a follow-on album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, which appeared in October 1990. Here is a clip of Last Night, which was included on the first album and featured Petty and Orbison on vocals.

Petty also released three solo albums, the first which of which came out in April 1989. Recorded with members of both The Heartbreakers (Campbell, Tench and bassist Howie Epstein) and The Traveling Wilburys (Lynne, Orbison and Harrison), Full Moon Fever became Petty’s most popular record in the U.S. It reached no. 3 on the Billboard 200 and was certified five times platinum. The album spawned various singles, including the hits I Won’t Back Down and Free Fallin’. Both songs were co-written by Petty and Lynne. Here’s clip of Free Fallin’.

In 2007, Petty convened his former Mudcrutch bandmates to record their belated debut album. The furthest the band had gotten in the ’70s was to tape some demos. Mudcrutch was released in April 2008 and entered the Billboard 200 at no. 8. A second Mudcrutch record, Mudcrutch 2, came out in April last year. Petty supported both albums with tours. Here is a live clip of Scare Easy from the first album, which was captured during the band’s tour in Nashville last May.

Petty’s 13th and last studio album with The Heartbreakers Hypnotic Eye appeared in July 2014. Here is a clip of Red River, which was written by Petty and became the record’s second single. It was released on June 10 that year, ahead of the album.

Over his 40-year-plus career, Petty was nominated for multiple awards and won various of them. Among others, he won Grammy awards in 1990 (Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group; with Traveling Wilburys for Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1), 1996 (Best Rock Album; for Wildflowers solo album) and 2009 (Best Music Video, Long Form; with The Heartbreakers for Runnin’ Down a Dream). In 2002, Petty and The Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Following are some reactions from other music artists to Petty’s death. “It’s shocking, crushing news,” Dylan told Rolling Stone. “I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”

Separately in Rolling Stone, long-time J. Geils Band lead singer Peter Wolf wrote in an exclusive remembrance: “I first met Tom when he and the Heartbreakers were the opening act on a J. Geils tour back in 1977. It was a full circle honor for me to be his opening act on the 2017 Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary tour…he worked very hard at everything he did and always with a deep passion and a great sense of dignity. He certainly carved his own way and always stayed one of the good guys!”

Various artists also took to Twitter:

Bon Jovi: “I’m crushed… Praying for all those affected by Vegas last night. And now the loss of one of my great influences Tom Petty today.”

Ringo Starr: “God bless Tom Petty peace and love to his family I’m sure going to miss you Tom.”

Peter Gabriel: “Very sad to say goodbye to Tom Petty, he was a kind and generous man, an excellent musician…”

Steven Van Zandt: “Man this cannot be happening. Not Tom Petty please. Our deepest love and condolences to his family and band. A brother and true believer.”

The last word of this post shall belong to Petty. “Music is a real magic,” he told NPR’s All Things Considered in 2014. “It affects human beings, it can heal, it can do wonderful things. I’ve had two people contact me in my life about coming out of comas to their family playing a song to them of mine, that they had liked before they were injured. They credited the song having something to do with that. I find that fascinating. A lot of people have told me, ‘This music got me through a really hard time,’ and I can relate to that.”

Sources: Wikipedia, The New York Times, NPR, Rolling Stone Fox News, YouTube